During the recent (ok, beginning of the month!) long dussera weekend, we drove down to Lansdowne, a small hill station in Uttaranchal. I was initially really excited about making the trip, but then a lot of people psyched me out, saying there’s nothing to do there!
We spent 3 nights/4 days at Lansdowne (of which we had 2 full days to roam around), and I’m already planning my next trip to the place, it’s that pretty. As for having nothing to do there…well, if your idea of holiday fun is walking along Mussorie’s crowded mall road, this place isn’t for you. However, if you love nature, you’ll fall in love with tiny Lansdowne.
You get a preview of what the city is like on the drive itself — from Kotdwar to Lansdowne, the road winds through hills covered with pine trees, with sightings of the River Kohsi from between branches and at sudden bends in the road. The town itself, maintained by the Garwal Rifles, is absolutely spick and span, pollution-free, which is a blessing for us Delhiites, and breathtakingly beautiful (Did I repeat myself?)
We stayed about 5-km out of Lansdowne, at Oak Grove Inn in Jerrithal, a small village with a population of about 700 people! It’s a lovely hotel, serving yummy home cooked meals, run by Col. (Retd.) Rawat and his charming wife. We met them on the last day of our stay there, and they told us about a number of places around Jerithal where we could have gone for a nature walk! Oh well, next time!!
You don’t really go to Lansdowne with a “places to see and things to do” agenda. The tiny hillstation has just a few “tourist” attractions — all of which we covered in a single day.
Our first stop was the Bulla Lake, which really is more like a water catchment, where a number of families were boating, and creating a nuisance by screaming at the top of their lungs. I fail to understand why people cannot respect the tranquility of a place and scream and shout and disturb the peace, but well! that’s something no one has any control over!
We weren’t in a mood to boat, so we walked around the gardens, sat down and sunned ourselves for a bit, and visited the nursery there, which had some beautiful plants! We didn’t buy any, though, because we’ve never had much success with the plants we’ve bought from the hills. Must be something to do with the heat and water of Delhi.
To get away from all the noise at the lake, we went off for a walk around the lake, meandering from the main road, walking along some random hill trails, enjoying the clean, crisp air, taking in the beauty all around us, and just goofing around!
From there, we decided to poke around at the shopping area in Gandhi Chowk. People said there are no shops in Lansdowne, and we found that really hard to believe! I mean, the people who stay there do have needs, don’t they? Sure, there were no souvenir shops and no salespeople pestering you to look at their wares. But, I did find a shop selling wool — and I found fibers there!! I had looked for it high and low in Delhi, but to no avail…Imagine my surprise at seeing it in sleepy Lansdowne! I went totally cukoo, picked up about 10 different colored fibers for use in my art projects!
We also took a short walk (all thanks to my paranoid hubby) down Lovers Lane. It used to be called Thandi Sadak (cool road) during British time, and was meant for their exclusive use. No Indians allowed. It apparently circles back to Tip In Top, and the locals claim that it is a perfectly safe area. However, there was no sign of humanity on that trail, and my dear husband didn’t want to risk us becoming leopard feed, so he silenced my protestations, and dragged me back, kicking a screaming, towards civilization (ok ok, that is an exaggeration!) But, peaceful Lovers Lane became our only point of argument during the trip! Imagine fighting over love!!
In the evening, we went to Tip In Top, from where you can get a 180 degree view of the valley, including Lansdowne and Jerrithal. GMVN has a resort there, which has two log cabins — what an amazing view those rooms would offer! — but the place otherwise is pretty run-down, so we ruled out staying there the next time.
On the drive back from Tip In Top to Lansdowne are two churches. The first, St. Mary’s Church, was built in 1927, fell into disuse in 1945, and was witness to just two weddings during this period. The Garwal Rifles took over the church and restored it about 5 years ago. The belltower houses the original bell (from 1927) and some of the vestments, as well as the baptism bowl. The church is set in the middle of a pretty little garden, and just outside the church is the tallest-ever morpankh tree!
St. Francis church is just a short way down from St. Mary’s. This church is still in use, though if you want to go in, you need to ring the bell and wait for the caretaker to open the doors to you. I walked around the church, and hubby darling got really scandalized when I walked through one of the gates. In my defense, though, the gate was wide open, there were no “no trespassing” signs, and I was just having a look-see! Anyways…we sat at the church for quite some time — I had been to one after AGES, and it was just so peaceful!
The next day, we drove down to Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple, which is 40 kms away from Lansdowne – 35 kms of excellent road, and 5 kms of no road at all! It’s just a rocky jungle path, though there is some work going on there, so the next time we visit, I suspect the road should be just fine! We encountered almost no traffic on our way there (this was a feature — a really good one, I might add — of our entire Lansdowne trip). Located at a height of 1,800 m, Tarkeshwar is known for its temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Tarkeshwar is situated in a cup-shaped valley, and is surrounded by Deodar trees. You won’t find a single deodar tree anywhere around Lansdowne, or even during the drive to Tarkeshwar, only in the area around the temple. Once you reach the place, there is a huge car park, a single shop selling agarbattis, flowers, prasad, etc. You then have to walk about a km to reach the temple. It’s really hard to describe that walk — it’s like a walk through a tropical rainforest, with deodar trees towering about 200ft over you, absolute silence — all you can hear is the sound of nature — it fills you with a sense of awe and accomplishment. There is also a small ashram that provides accommodation (note to self: explore possibility of staying there for a day next time!); and we were really surprised to see some foreigners sitting there getting a head massage!! I can see why they were staying there, though. I would love to do it myself.
After visiting the temple and spending some time at the forest (a word of warning: don’t sit around on stones/on the path too long. The place is home to leeches — you sure don’t want any of those getting stuck to you in a hurry!) we went back towards the car. When you come down to the temple, the path bifurcates — one trail goes to the temple, and the other one….well, we decided to explore where it leads before heading back to the car. It’s a pretty long trail that seems to lead to a government rest house. We just strolled along for a bit, took some pictures of the pretty mountain flowers, and then we headed back to the car and civilization.
We had decided to go to Lansdowne in the evening for a last stroll through the town, but spent all evening chatting with Col. Rawat and his wife. Around a bonfire that he set up during the later part of the evening, the Col. told us about some of the very recent leopard sightings in and around Lansdowne, during which hubby darling had a very smug “I told you so” look. All-in-all, we had a delightful last evening, and trip, in Lansdowne.
Let me take you on a short virtual tour:
A hilly existence for more pictures of the people and places in Lansdowne.